No names. None. Not here. Not in my time. Not the time before. Not in any time. “Pardon?” Once upon a time? But not now. No more. No need. Pronouns suffice. It’s no insult. Who’s to insult? They’re dead! So many. They don’t care. It’s of no concern. It’s the rules. Space is scarce. Time precious. Winding down. Tick, tock. I am taxed enough. “Pardon?” I am not complaining.
What is this “here?” A place, a windowless room, barren with only desk and chair, pencils and paper, old in every way, airless and self-sufficient with the stench of another time. I am of that time, old beyond recall, tattered but not completely worn, serviceable, yes, in a word. There have been efforts, there are efforts to force me out before my time. I don’t resent this. In my day I did the same, succeeding finally as witnessed by my position. I do not fear taking my place in the ledger, though such recording falls to my successor. He will write “he,” and my place thus secured. I prefer “Yet Another,” and will make this suggestion knowing it will be ignored for I am not remarkable, though such an entry would indicate as much. It would be worse should he write “it.” Deserved? Maybe. Because I did it to my predecessor. Volume 9996664432010. Page 1600897042381. Look it up. It’s in black and white. So great was my vanity then. It persists. Hence my hope for a preferential entry. It will not happen, though my dreams burst with scenarios where the unreasonable comes to pass regardless of method.
Duty calls. Sixteen thousand just these past few minutes. It’s no wonder names have been dispensed with. It would be beyond my ability, though if the protocols were altered I would apply myself assiduously. Did you hear? “Pardon?” Another eighteen? What is going on out there? Sorry. I meant nothing accusatory. I am a statistician only, humbly. My leanings in recreational moments are poetical, florid pronouncements and the like. I have developed a vocabulary. It helps to endure the routine that engulfs me. A temporary reprieve so to speak, for in the end there is only the necessity of attending this list.
Before this I…Forgive my hesitancy. I did, things, of a different nature, subscribed to common principles, ordinary, run of the mill, unexciting but solid in an unthinking way. For example, no, not that one, but this, yes, a domestic routine, quite ordinary, quite fulfilling. Poor? Certainly not wealthy. I don’t remember being hungry. I provided to the best of my abilities. And it wasn’t all drudgery. There was laughter. Her laughter. I could make her laugh! My wit was to use an obsolete term acerbic. Then I became like those I mocked. The laughter faded. With it too the tenderness though such lack is a boon to my present employment which looks askance upon nostalgia. It is residue from times past, though I feel something is undermined with the loss of certain sentiments. So many gone out of style, pffft! I can’t recall. These notions, among others, contribute to the clamor for my removal. “Pardon?” Get on with it? Yes. Certainly. Another eight thousand. He knows for all my faults I am still up to the task. I have leverage.
She’s gone now, her laugh faded. I have survived her by many years. I have been meaning to look her up in the ledger and run my finger over her designation. I have been unable to bring myself to it. I know exactly where she is recorded. The records here are meticulous. I have not been a slacker in that regard. Some may think one entry the same as another, that any will suffice. That is not the case. Embellishments can be added by exerting more pressure on the pencil. Disdain, consequently, by easing up. I devised a way around this. Simply amend the system to dots, one for males, two for females or vice versa. Then I realized dots too are subject to the same whims: larger, smaller, darker, lighter, etc. I will concede the point. The flaw then lies in the recorder. Improve him and the system follows. But what can’t be denied is it would result in a more efficient use of space while simultaneously broadening the field in the search for my successor. After all, almost anyone can register a dot or two. I have decided to keep this idea to myself. Should the system be adopted, I could not bear the knowledge of someday being logged a mere speck among innumerable others. It would make that distance between me and her unbearable.
I feel this separation most acutely during slack times. It has led me to be wary of idleness, though I must confess to its great allure. Those detachments from routine hang like ripe fruit from a low bough waiting to be plucked and savored. Well now. What a wonderful surprise to state it as such, with eloquence, not in any absolute sense, but proportional to my station and abilities. But there it stands, extracted and subsistent, to be had whenever I am forlorn. Another one? I do have too much time on my hands.
I have been in this room a long while. The walls are a sunny yellow, quite an improvement over the hue preferred by my predecessor. I knew the change was necessary if I was to endure. That drab blue tended to gray and reminded me of a coffin. After all, just because we record the dead doesn’t mean we should emulate them prematurely. His disposition was not mine. Rumor has it he was a miserly type purposely miscasting those whom he considered capricious in the hope that a disparaging entry would diminish their influence upon future generations. Why he would want to slip novelty into a straitjacket is beyond me. He brought his prejudices to the job rather than leaving them outside where they belonged. One must seek to maintain one’s objectivity at all times. He deserved the entry I gave him. I worried a loved one might discover it and lodge a formal complaint. It did not happen. Who could love such a creature? Of course I only know him through his work and the rumors circulating this space. But my conclusions seem valid enough.
“Pardon?” No, I haven’t seen it. Let me look. Oh my. It is clear. I am to make greater use of indeterminate distributive pronouns. I am to be unburdened of gender. There have been instances when this allowance would have been a great help. But it has always been met with resistance. Am I to conclude those forces have at last been vanquished? When are similarities so great as to overwhelm distinctions? Am I to make those decisions unaided? “Pardon?” I AM up to the task.
Upon reflection it seems a logical step. “See.” Progress ensues against personal objections though it leaves me fearful some catastrophe is imminent. They have not been forthcoming in the past. They need the shadows that allow their movements to go unhindered. We need the light of ignorance that we may remain carefree in our pursuits. “Pardon?” It’s not my job to speculate? Yes. Certainly. Nevertheless such a major change in procedure at least in my tenure is unprecedented. This bit of anarchy must not go beyond this room. There could be repercussions, civil unrest and the like. It is not a fantasy. The threat is real. But the social fabric is well knit. What’s required is a different kind of citizen, though I am in the dark exactly what kind that might be. I’ll admit it. I once might have been him. The type is well known. One who believes reason the ruin of the stallion. Sound arguments and the like. Why am I whispering? Hooey. Indeterminate distributive pronouns. Enough said.
What of my children, my two babies? They are babies no longer, but women, active and responsible, with families of their own. They will be caught up in this, lost in this bundling confusion forever. It is up to me. Oh my! I am whispering again. The directive was not without ambiguities. Further on it may be amended. But for now I am left with room to maneuver should I be so inclined. It would be a professional judgment exercised under the aegis of my authority. I could so argue. But to whom? Him? He’s all I know. He stands above me. It follows that he stands relatively too, though I have no evidence. Just a thought slung heedlessly without repercussions. Nonsense. There is always a price to pay. I will pay it. They are my children. My Marissa! My Sarah! There! I said it aloud. Louise, my wife, their mother, almost lost, but there still. What would she think? What would she say? I know what she’d say. She would question my competence, my moxie. Such scenes of domestic turbulence! Her curses hurled like stones for transgressions both real and imagined. Me cowering with guilt both real and imagined, for in my mind I had done it all, immoral beyond recall, so to speak. And there came a point when I could no longer distinguish the real from the imagined. Right reason was not among my virtues. Weak as a sapling in a heavy wind! Yes. Those forces got to me before I fully took root. My upbringing was defective. Witness the result. She thinks I will be unable to secure my, our, children’s, fate. I will prove myself, make amends, bring light to her eyes wherever she may be. Indeterminate distributive pronouns! We’ll see.
This resolve has energized me. No longer do pretty sobriquets dance in my head. Intrigues have taken their place. It’s a little thing. Meager as a drop of rain upon an ocean of sand. Oh my. Maybe I’m not free from my dalliances. I have tried to bring romance to this office. It is only natural. Even the stolid mechanisms of the universe flutter beneath gusts of grand beauty. Our eyes weep. Our hearts ache. This may be the only corner left us. It is more than enough so long as it remains. To impugn it would be disastrous. Do I have the courage? Yes, I say. But it is the courage of an old man afraid to risk what little joy is left him. That is when one should be most daring. But it is from our children we demand heroism. You’d think the earth would have had its fill of blood. Not according to these ledgers. What greater crime than to discard memories like trash. I know. I’ve read the manual. It serves a greater purpose. It allows us to get on with it. Or else we’d be stuck in the mud. It drags us all down. All that sobbing and crying! It cannot be attended to with anything resembling efficiency. But they had their supporters. I was not among them. We were told of the harm they could inflict. Leave them to the priests! But their numbers are not nearly enough.
What if I were to write, “Among them these.” Sentences have not been used for some time. Perhaps they have not been formally forbidden but have fallen from use out of habit. Better to strike boldly than blindly. There are parameters. They have not been strictly delineated. “Do as has been done,” was the implication of the directive. It takes a mature mind to cherish duty. They saw in me a keeper of the flame. Let it expire and darkness results. We’d have to begin again, a senseless task since we’d already gotten it right. Not at once, no. I’m not glossing over frailty, the false starts, the unintended consequences. Only within constraints is the exercise of freedom practical. How I tremble. Louise was right in her imprecations. I am a man no more. Still they are but words scratched on a page. Innocent. Harmless. Yet their utterance in the mind seems a defiant thing, tending more to discord than not. Given the air of expression tumult would ensue. Dare I violate the trust in me? I would lose credibility, my position, my life.
It’s an old conflict, the noble and savage dueling in one breast. Both have reason in their corner. But are the conclusions deduced symmetrical? Is there a single source where the bifurcation is rooted? Is it a wish, bold and sincere, but without foundation? I say no. It is there to be had, a bedrock upon which all rests. I am convinced. This is a change of heart! The skepticism of my youth replaced with certainty in my old age. So what if it is merely faith. I have it now and am going to act. After all, reflection properly pursued rids itself of excess baggage. The purity of the project begun many times, and failed many times, does not censure the need for correct method. We are what we think even if that thinking is bound. The goal isn’t freedom but accommodation. And others will follow like beasts to water. “Pardon?” Where have I been? Here. I am behind? Fourteen thousand? “Them.” It is accomplished. I am back on track. So simple. So neat.
“Upon a gentle hill we spread our blanket and laid down to look up at the sky.” I would have not had time for this without the new directive. I have realized an immediate benefit. It is in the field where theory is justified. But what if my indulgences appear extreme? I must be judicious. I don’t want to be seen in the wrong light. I am a person of character. To be judged insouciant will not do. Then again it may be to my advantage. They will think me incapable of insurrection. When the moment comes to strike they will be off their guard. And I must be eternally vigilant for an entry once logged is forever.
“With her beside me I knew I was alive.” What a lark this has begun! I fear being trapped on the wrong side of the equation. Would I know it if I was? There are others. I know this even though I can’t prove it. I have heard the rumors. Some are easily dismissed. Others not. If the choice were mine to make, what would I decide? At these moments what surfaces are stubborn notions that can’t be argued away but grow stronger from the attempt. They seem planted in me, there to be had when stirred by a restless mind. I don’t believe him to be the source. He seems a lackey like myself but on a higher order. There must be another. And then what? Another? Where will it stop? In death. My responsibilities are grave indeed.
“I could feel our youth as surely as the sun upon my flesh. We were young and sure as the sun was warm. The sun shone brightly and warmed us deeply. I was content beside you with the sun warming our flesh.” This is so much better. It’s like being intoxicated. That such euphoria is so readily available cannot be viewed without displeasure. It would act as a corrosive to purpose. And without purpose, dare I finish the thought? Perhaps these numbers would diminish to the point where old ways could again be resumed. There would be more time for, for reclamation. That duty would fall to another less entrenched than me. But it has begun. With me! Of that I feel strongly.
No, no, no. All this sentiment is clouding my judgment. Why do I hang on to what is gone and forgotten? It robs me of…peace. I long again to be sure of my role, however small, and the parts played apart from me. Together they form a majestic edifice assuring those who follow a proper grounding for future exigencies. These numbers then are the least to be expected because of a watchful beneficence. They certainly could be more, but not less owing to a proffered mercy distinguishable and quantifiable. I have been allowed sway so that I might reason it out and come to the only conclusion that makes sense. I am not insignificant to the forces ruling me though their horizons dwarf my own and others like me who do the lugging. My love for my children is not lessened because of this realization. If their time to be recorded comes before my own I will be doing them a service by remaining within the parameters set before me. In my small way such stability is the only blessing I can confer.
“We could hear the waves lapping the shore before us. Stirred by a breeze the waves lapped onto the shore. The shore whispered in a quiet lapping.” “Pardon?” IT has occurred. The numbers are staggering, more than I could have imagined. I must set aside my proclivities. Just as I was making progress. There is something refreshing in this latest onslaught. It leaves little room for improvisation and it is well documented that improvisation gives rise to spectacle. For example I am informed my misgivings over my children were disproportionate. Now that I am back on track I can see my error. What seemed insurmountable has vanished. These thoughts are persuasive. Though this latest surge has infused me with melancholy, I will do what must be done even with a heavy heart, a true heart.
“The trees in the distance were bloomed and swaying. We could see the blooming trees in the distance swaying and silent. The silence in the distance of the trees. The distant trees were silent in their blooming.” There I begin. There I remain. There I end.